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Tavis Smiley

Series/Special. Robert Wagner. (2009) Adam Nagourney, The New York Times; actor Robert Wagner. (CC) (Stereo)

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PBS

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00:35:00

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mpeg2video

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ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
704

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480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

New York 7, Virginia 6, Robert Wagner 6, Tavis Smiley 5, Obama 3, Jon Corzine 3, Adam Nagourney 3, Us 3, Randolph Scott 2, California 2, Natalie Wood 2, Paterson 2, Corzine 2, Robert J. Wagner 2, New Jersey 2, Fred Astaire 2, George Segal 1, Suzy Asman 1, Natalie 1, Wagner 1,
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  PBS    Tavis Smiley    Series/Special. Robert Wagner.  (2009) Adam Nagourney,  
   The New York Times; actor Robert Wagner. (CC) (Stereo)  

    November 5, 2009
    12:00 - 12:35pm EST  

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>> good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. republican victories in virginia and new jersey are being seen as showing the worst days of the republican party are in the
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rearview mirror. that and more tonight for adam nagourney, correspondent for "the new york times." robert wagner stops by. he has a best-selling memoir, "pieces of my heart." we're glad you've joined us. adam nagourney and robert wagner coming up right now. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] >> there are some neat things walmart is helping people doing, living better and helping you build stronger communities and relationships. with your help, the best is yet to come. >> net it -- nationwide proudly supports tavis smiley. working to improve literacy and economic empowerment that comes with it. >> nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station by viewers like you. thank you.
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tavis: adam nagourney is the national political correspondent for "the new york times" and has been covering the races in virginia and new jersey and upstate new york. nice to have you on the program. let me start our conversation with your words in the paper today. "the republican victories in the races for new jersey and virginia governor's put the party in a stronger position to turn back the political wave president obama unleashed last year, setting the stage for republicans to raise money, recruit candidates, and ride the excitement of an energized base as the party hedges -- heads into next year's midterm elections." there was something riding on last night, yes? >> yes, there was. this helps the republican party.
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it helps them raise money. it helps them recruit candidates. it helps them get good attention. i think people should be careful about saying, because a republican one in virginia and new jersey, that means republicans will do really well next year. it could be true. it could not be true. it is a help for the party. tavis: i agree with you on your statement just now. was last night in any way instructive and informative for democrat? >> there are two things i would watch for, just glimmers' or cans. one is in depend -- glimmers or hints. one is independent voters. barack obama won the support of independent voters. what happened last night is a lot of independent voters swung over to the republican
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gubernatorial candidates in both states. there was evidence that independent voters are upset with president obama on spending and deficit issues. that is something divisive in the white house. that is the first thing. the second thing is, as you know, president obama put together a remarkable political coalition last year of first time voters, african-american voters, young voters. there's no evidence those voters came out to support the gubernatorial candidates, despite the fact campaigned on their behalf. tavis: doesn't that mean he was not on the ballot and that is why they did not turn out? >> i think that is probably the case. we need to be careful saying there for the obama coalition is gone. he was not on the ballot. the other thing there is that these were not federal candidates. these are candidates running for state office. these were not state senators are members of the house who will vote on health care or the issues that mattered less.
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we need to be careful. we have yet to see evidence so far that the kind of coalitions that president obama assembled last year has been put to use in getting legislation through or helping other candidates. it is something you want to keep an eye on. tavis: so we know that obama was not on the ballot himself last mike -- last night. we know, given your good in sight of a moment ago, that these persons last night were at best state officials. they are not federal officials. they're not voting on health care. these persons in these states, new jersey and virginia, are upset about something. they voted for candidates, they voted for people who have a different view on these issues at the national level than the president does. does that make sense? >> that does. as you look at exit polling, a small number said their vote was based on how they felt about
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president obama. in particular in virginia, it was a time line. the issue there is transportation, taxes. there are big issues going on. new jersey, people were upset with governor corzine. other issues override president obama and help people feel about president obama. tavis: president obama went to new jersey two or three times to campaign for jon corzine. what do we read into that? >> he had -- two things. he went there. that meant he thought he had a pretty good chance of winning. the white house was certainly aware they did not want to be in a situation where they lost three races last night. there is the third upstate new york congressional race. from the political point of view, it means the president invested some of his political capital and to winning this race in new jersey and governor corzine lost. part of that is, how much does that matter? people are buzzing about it and
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pattering around in circles. here is the real-life, possible impact. president obama of the next month and a half or the next six months will be going to congress and asking democrats to cast tough votes on issues like climate control and also on health care. he probably lost a little bit of clout when he goes to moderate members who were already worried about casting votes on some of these things. there will say, you did not do much good campaigning for corzine. there is an impact there. tavis: we will stick with managers. jon corzine, a multimillionaire, he spent a bunch of its own money. he loses by a few points. never mind the money is spent. michael bloomberg spent $100 million in new york city. you put them together, just of the past few years combined in new jersey and new york, they have spent over $400 million of their own money for races in new jersey and new york.
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corzine still loses by a few points. bloomberg wins by a whole lot less than the polls or the newspapers and others in new york thought he was going to win by. talk to me about money in politics. >> money only gets you so far. money can buy you ads and get to the staff. take corzine. if your candidate has problems with the electorate, for whatever reason, he never came over 43%. he can only go so far. your money will get your attention, the people will vote on who you are. with bloomberg in new york, people think he has done a good job. the third term thing was a problem for him. i think he really needed -- he was running against a candidate who isot particularly strong. i think he really felt that in order for him to win, he had to spend a lot of money. i believe he was probably caught by surprise about how close it turned out in the end.
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he is probably thinking now that he is glad he spent $100 million. he has that kind of money. to me, that would be a lot of money. tavis: to me and to you. >> i covered him for a long time. he is a business guy. he get stuff done. he does not waste money. he thought, if i want to be mayor again, i have to spend the money to do it. tavis: you mentioned earlier this race in upstate new york. i will let you explain it. you can do it quicker than i can. what is your read given to one last night? >> it was the smallest of the races, but politically the most significant. there was an open seat up there. it is a republican district. the republican nominated candidate there, the candidate was a woman who supports abortion rights, gay rights, supported the president's economic stimulus package. the conservative party was upset.
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they endorsed the wrong candidate. we had a three-way race. we had a conservative figures in the country and get -- grass- roots organizations campaigning. sarah palin went in there. tim pawlenty went in there. on saturday, i think, the republican candidate announced she was suspending her campaign because she said she could not be to all of the money and the support for the other candidates. the general assumption was, the republican district, the conservative candidate has people juiced up for him. he will win. he didn't. he lost. what is significant is that it shows the republican party has to deal with the split in the party about how you win elections. do you raise conservative precepts and go back to the right? do you win it by trying to support moderate candidates who might appeal to a broader swath of voters? there will have to work that over. tavis: president obama did everything he could to help jon corzine win in new jersey. we know that the white house has
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sent messages to the governor in new york, the only african- american governor, david paterson, the white house sent a message that they're wanting to get out of the race and not run for reelection, not stand for election next year. how does corzine losing with the president's support complicate what happens in that race next year? >> my sense with that race, paterson is an unusual politician. he will do what he wants to do. the fact the president is sending signals he wants a lot of the race, that means you have trouble getting support, trouble with money. i am not sure what will happen. we will watch polls and see if he thinks he has a chance to win. it diminishes the president's authority to some extent. tavis: there you go.
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we will follow that race with governor paterson next year. you do great work at "the times" today. thank you for coming to the program. up next, robert wagner. stay with us. tavis: pleased to welcome robert wagner back to the program. he is out now with the paperback of this critically acclaimed memoir "pieces of my heart." always an honor to have you on this program. >> they told me to dress up. tavis: not this nice, though. let to have you back. >> i had such a good time with you last time. tavis: no more fun than i had. we were talking about your wife. you lived in colorado. i read somewhere that we all
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miss st. john a debt of gratitude because she kept you from doing "dancing with the star's" when the phone rang. >> that is a true story. i was ready to go. she said, i have never gotten into your career and i have never applies to run anything, but she said, i don't think you should do this. when she said that, i thought, i had better take that advice. tavis: why were you thinking about it? that is a lot of work. >> i think it is difficult to stand up there and have them take you apart in the end. tavis: you have done that for years. critics are always at your heels. >> it is a lot of work. i enjoyed meeting the people. that was early on. tavis: speaking of early on, you have lived such a rich and full life. i cannot do justice to it in the time you have had. speaking of early on, you start out this memoir by telling us
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that for the privilege to grow up with here in this town, he spent the first 18 years of your life trying to get out of your dad's shadow, getting out of your dad's world. tell me about your early days. >> well, i was robert j. wagner jr. my father was a very successful man. he wanted me to be in his industry, in his business, robert wagner and son. he was very demanding personality, very strong, and i always wanted to be in the movies. you know? from the first time i saw my first picture in a theater, i thought, that is what i want to do. i was around young people who were the sons and daughters of movie people. we had moved to california. my father moved to california. i start the book out with
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sitting under a tree around 12 years old and seeing four men coming down the fairway at the bel-air country club. those four men as they got closer to me were carried grant, randolph scott, fred astaire, and clark gable. i saw them and i thought, that is what i want to be. i want to be in their world somehow, be a part of that. one of the reasons that i wrote this book is because, look what happened. randolph scott was very generous to me and helpful in my career. cary grant became a lifelong friend. clark gable took me to mgm and fred astaire played my father in a series i did called "it takes a thief." how will that happen, how that will touch upon me -- how that
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all touch upon me, that is why i wrote the book, to a knowledge that. tavis: what does that say to you, looking back, about dreams? >> well, my dream came true, you know? i always wanted to do this. i had a great desire to do it. nothing deterred me. i have great enthusiasm. one of the things that cannot of this is if you have a dream, -- that came out of this is if you have a dream come it can come true. i had a lot of friends who were so encouraging and helped me so much. i wanted to write all of that. it took a while to do it. i have a wonderful collaborator and he knew a great deal about hollywood. he wrote some wonderful books. he wrote the book on john ford
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and sights and sounds. he just finished a book on cecil b. demille. he knew hollywood and he was able to drop me into hollywood at that time. i started at the end of the time and the contract system was on. i was under contract to 20th century fox for 12 years. that was my education. instead of going to college, i was at fox. it was a good one. tavis: for every child watching now, every young person who has a dream that happens to be different than the dream that his or her parent or parents have for them, what is the lesson in going your own way? how did you and your dad reconcile this? >> we never really sort of got it straightened out. i think the most important thing is to be a dreamer. you know?
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if you have a dream, and you believe it, it can work for you. and i think, you know, parents can sometimes be very -- they want to have the best for you. they want to kind of have you go in a direction that you may not want to go. it is not to their detriment in way, but i think you just have to keep that positiveness in you and that feeling that you can do ait, that will, you know? i think you need to be willful about it and be strong about it. tavis: you have taught some much about this and it has been written about all over, the death of your former wife natalie wood. i don't want to go into the details. i do want to ask this question, which is, how -- looking back on
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it, how you process having to write about it in detail. was a therapeutic? was it the exact opposite? what was the experience? >> i did not do it therapeutically. i could not write a book about "pieces of my heart" and not have her in it. i was with her from the time she was 18 years old and we were very much in love. we were married twice. we had everything in the world. the only -- the way that i was able to process that and get through its was because of my three children and jill was so helpful to me, and all of my friends who came to me and support me and repair for me. david niven was very close to me
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and he had a similar experience because he had lost his wife. he was very young. he had two young boys. he was so helpful to me to help me get on top of tit. it wasn't -- it was a devastating time and i couldn't write a book without dealing with it. tavis: you have been celebrated for some many years in your career, as a leading man. we all know that. i have not processed this until i was going through the book. you have had the good fortune, i think, i will use that phrase, the good fortune of having been in love with a woman significantly older than you, and natalie wood, a somewhat
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younger than you. i'm not sure there's a question there. what do you make of my observation? >> i write about my romance with barbara stanwyck. i was in a picture with her called "titanic." she was 22, 23 years older than i was. it was the most wonderful relationship. she was so fabulous to me. i fell in love with her and she could not attend -- she just could not have been greater. tavis: they call them kruger's these days. >> -- them cougars these days. >> she would have been a cougar. those relationships were not recognized it all back then. it would not been acceptable. today, it would have been great. [laughter]
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tavis: amazing what a difference a few years makes. >> it sure is. it sure is. you know, this book has been an amazing thing for me because i had no idea that it was. to have the kind of results that it had. it was on "the new york times" bestseller list. i had no idea that what happened. tavis: is interesting, fascinating, amazing, you pick a word, that people are so interested in your life? this is really about you the person. >> i was really quite amazed at it. you know, it took three and a half years to write it. i was very reluctant to let it go. when i did let it go, i got depressed. i had a very big slump. you have no audience when you write a book. you don't know what is going to happen. tavis: how is that different
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from doing a movie, though? you do not know what the response will be. >> you have a lot of people around you. you are all going for the same thing. this is a rather individual effort. tavis: do me a favor. put this book cover back on the screen. i want to ask robert wagner why, of all the photos that have been taken of you over the years, why did you sign off on this particular photo being on the cover? >> i will tell you why. i gave the picture to my youngest daughter, courtney, and when i was going to read the book, she said, daddy, this has to be the cover of the book. tavis: your hair is disheveled. you have two days of growth on your face. why did she like that? >> i think it is because i was -- it has got a feeling about it. i was quite lonely then. natalie and i had left each
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other. i was in france making a movie called "the longest day." george segal's wife snapped that picture. i was alone. i did not know where i was going. my daughter courtney always loved that shot. that is why i used it. tavis: it is a cool photoperiod i just wondered what made them take that vote a. you do not believe in retirement, do you? >> i do not. i don't. i think it is kind of da ploy to get you to retire, to move into retirement communities and go on cruises and buy insurance. you know, this is something that i wanted to do all my life. it worked for me. i got lucky. i got into it. i love it. i just want to be a part of it
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as long as i can. it has been working out pretty well for me. i have met some very dry spot, but sometimes i have had good shots. tavis: you might make something of yourself. there might be a spot for you in this after row. robert j. wagner. his memoir is now out in paperback, "pieces of my heart," a "new york times" bestseller. robert wagner, honor to have you on the program. >> always good to be here. tavis: you can access our radio podcast through our web site at pbs.org. good night from l.a. and as always, keep the faith. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org--
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>> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: i am tavis smiley. join me next time with lee eisenberg, plus suzy asman. that is next time. we will see you then. >> their so many things that walmart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live better, but mostly looking forward to helping build stronger communities and relationships. because of your help, the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance probably supports tavis smiley. -- nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. >> nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station by viewers like you. thank you.
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